The Greater Victoria region covers the extreme southern end of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, including the Saanich Peninsula, Victoria, Esquimalt, Colwood, Metchosin, and Sooke, with almost half of Vancouver Island’s population of 750,000 people living within the Capital Regional District (CRD) around Victoria. Established in 1843 by James Douglas as a Hudson’s Bay Company Fort, the City of Victoria has a proud history of British custom.
Victoria has a temperate climate with mild, damp winters and relatively dry and mild summers. It is sometimes classified as a cool-summer Mediterranean climate due to its usually dry summers. There is a rich diversity of landscapes within the region, ranging from the Douglas fir forests along the coast to the drier, exposed conditions of the higher, rockier elevations that support arbutus (madrona) and Garry oak forests. Victorians display their love for the natural world by cultivating flower gardens at every turn. As you’d imagine in a region where a large urban population interacts with such a delightful natural tableau, a vast network of walking, hiking, and biking routes leads through the many parks with which the city is blessed.
It’s easy to imagine how sweet life was for Native Canadians who once had this all to themselves. Beacon Hill Park in downtown Victoria was the site of a village that had been inhabited for thousands of years prior to the arrival of the colonial settlers in the 1840s. A tangled web of events since then has displaced the original dwellers, but their history is evident in the petroglyphs that adorn the shoreline and in the middens of seashells mounded up beside the beaches on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Totem poles new and old stand as proud reminders of this First Nation heritage.
To gain a fresh appreciation for the talents and skills of First Nations peoples, combine a visit to the outdoors around Victoria with a stop at the Royal British Columbia Museum, a world-class repository of native artifacts. With the enriched perspective that such a visit will bring, you’ll look at the landscape with new interest and appreciation. The figures on the totems will no longer be static representations from a mythological age. Instead, combined with the presence of killer whales, seals, eagles, ravens, salmon, and other species that are as vibrant in the landscape today as they were in the past, you’ll enter a timeless realm and, in the process, discover a new place in nature for yourself.
Conde’ Naste Traveler Magazine reader’s poll rated Victoria one of the top ten cities to visit in the world. The picture-perfect Inner Harbour is surrounded by many of Victoria’s beautiful character buildings and premier attractions: the stately Empress Hotel, the BC provincial Legislative Buildings, museums and galleries. As romantic as Victoria may be, with its delightful natural harbour and the Olympic Mountains of Washington State on the horizon, the provincial capital of British Columbia is less a museum piece nowadays than it is a tourist mecca. Visitors pour in to view vast sculpted gardens and London-style double-decker buses, to shop for Irish linens and Harris tweeds, to sip afternoon tea, and to soak up what they believe is the last vestige of British imperialism in the Western Hemisphere.